The Color of October

As October draws to a close, the memory that lingers is of color and light. So what color is October, exactly? Even with its oranges, purples, blues, and silvers, I describe the color impression as simply warm. Even the silvers and purples, even with the chilly weather. Just warm. Perhaps it's a nesting thing, that longing for a cozy sweater to wrap around oneself. It is preparing for the long days of winter ahead and enjoying every last drop of dry weather. Whatever the reason, be it mysterious or practical, I give you the color of October in my mind's eye that translates to "warm".

At the corner of the veggie garden, our neighbor Chris' enormous pumpkin is visible from across the street. Surely it's the most sincere pumpkin patch in the land. It's so fantastic to have neighbors surrounding us who also love nature and gardening. We are lucky.

Rosa glauca never fails to disappoint, be it spring, summer or autumn.

Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy' adds contrasting purples to a mostly warm-colored garden bed. Originally there were three of these but they are not entirely hardy and two failed to return this spring.

Helianthus angustifolius is planted at the gate, so quite a distance away from the house but I see it every time we come and go. The fact that this plant is blooming now and will continue to do so for a good while longer makes it a must-have in my garden. It is tall and airy, too - and can be seen from quite a distance. It's easy, another bonus.

I am fairly certain this is Viburnum trilobum (syn. Viburnum opulus var. americanum) but there is confusion about American cranberry bush. It is either that or V. edule or V. opulus var. opulus. Feel free to chime in if you know.

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oak leaf hydrangea, one of my all-time favorite plants. It has great exfoliating bark that is so is attractive in winter, has beautiful panicles of white flowers in summer and in autumn has gorgeous leaf color.

This I know to be Viburnum trilobum, purchased at Bosky Dell Natives in West Linn some five years ago.

I am equally confident about this one's identification - Viburnum opulus 'Aurea'. The point is, deciduous viburnums can have fantastic autumn color and berries. The white lacecap flowers in spring are also lovely.

Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' gets the richest reds of any deciduous shrub I grow.

One of three Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' that were on the property already. They have grown considerably since then and have consistently put on a fiery show every autumn. Here it is seen with Olearia lineata 'Dartonii', an airy evergreen shrub from New Zealand.

The old broken birdbath, long ago turned into a sedum planter.

Chrysanthemum 'Hillside Sheffield Pink', my favorite chrysanthemum.

The berm garden with evergreen sub-shrubs combined with deciduous shrubs and perennials.

Hesperantha coccinea 'Oregon Sunset' (syn. Schizostylis coccinea), one of the few flowers to bloom this time of the year.

The second of three Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' seen here with spiky Muhlenbergia rigens or deer grass.

Penstemon kunthii, just about my favorite penstemon. Another genus of plants that continue blooming well into autumn.

Berberis jamesiana, a gift from my friend and colleague Anna of the garden blog Flutter and Hum. She said "just plant it" and I listen to Anna. I'm so glad I did.

The outer edges of the "Himalayan mounds" which have become the Appalachian bumps instead. These are full-sun loving, drought-tolerant easy plantings far out from the house and hoses.

New to me this year, Salvia regla 'Huntington Gardens' adds rich orange to the outer edges of the Himalayan mounds.

Franklinia alatamaha planted two years ago for our little furry one Lucy who passed away. A unique tree for a one-of-a-kind kitty.

Mahonia 'Soft Caress' is great for late-season pollinators.

Aster ageratoides 'Ezo Murasaki' is the latest blooming aster I know of. 

Another shot of Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' surrounded by perennials and shrubs, including Amsonia hubrichtii and asters at its base.

A shot of part of the gravel garden with Callistemon sieberi beneath the bird feeder.

Pelargonium sidoides seedling. The original plant, which is still in the garden, was given to me by fellow garden blogger Alison. I am pretty amazed this plant has been hardy for me in the ground some four years now. I suppose I'm tempting fate and should take cuttings before winter sets in.

Unknown Hydrangea macrophylla cultivar. In summer it is a solid sky blue, but this year the autumn color is a kaleidoscope.

View of the corner of the orchard from near the greenhouse under an old Oregon white oak tree.

Vitex rotundifolia, beach vitex. While considered invasive in coastal areas, it is fine here. From the Missouri Botanical Garden website:

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10 where it is best grown in loose, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Prefers sandy soils in coastal areas in full sun. Tolerates low fertility soils (it is native to sandy/rocky nutrient poor coastal areas). Excellent tolerance for salt, wind and drought. In the U. S., this plant is now considered to be an invasive spreader in coastal environments where it is no longer recommended for planting. It is much less of an invasive threat in inland locations where it generally grows well in dry, sunny settings.

Amsonia hubrichtii and that trademark glowy goodness.

Salvia microphylla has been reliably hardy for me so far and an easy bloomer.

At the edge of the gravel garden.

Yucca 'Blue Sentry' at the edge of the labyrinth garden where it gets the most sun and very little water.

In the center, Salix eleganos var. angustifolius or rosemary willow. This is the middle of the labyrinth garden where paths converge.

Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' with, surprisingly, wonderful autumn color.

Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy' from a distance. When it blooms, it is stunning and worth it.

Just the middle of the property with the orchard edge on the left and the labyrinth in the distance and the greenhouse behind me. A second Oregon white oak on the right.

Salvia reptans 'Autumn Sapphire' is a welcome sight in early autumn, always stopping me in my tracks with that amazing blue. 

Ghosts of the veggie garden edge. The corn has been harvested as have all the beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, delicata squash, peppers, and basil -- still many other vegetables are producing, such as kale, lettuce, an explosion of radishes (I let a few plants go to seed and now they are everywhere), beets, celeriac and more.

Our pumpkin patch had a hard frost, so the leaves are done but the pumpkins are fine. This year we grew Winter Luxury pie pumpkins again (simply the best) as well as butternut squash and Musquee de Provence pumpkins.

Blueberries have amazing color this year. We had them on drip irrigation for the first couple of years, but they weren't receiving adequate moisture. The moisture they did receive was concentrated in areas that attracted moles, therefore stunting their growth with massive tunnel networks around their tender shallow root systems. Since we began hand watering (and with sprinklers), the plants have doubled in size and produced decent fruit this year. And then the color. Every day we learn something new about our garden.

In total we have three fig trees, two of which are still very immature. This one, possibly Petite Negra or Negronne, is said to be a petite tree at maturity. It was given to us by Darcy of egardengo in a pot a few years ago. The figs, although few, are extremely tasty when ripe. I treasure each and every one.

Nothing to see here, just a chicken in a tree. This is Penny, one of the three newbies, who somehow managed to get herself up here. She flew down with ease, no chickens were harmed in the making of this blog post. I hope she has forgotten she can fly. Oy. And let us hope she starts laying eggs soon. Our slackers, all nine of them, are laying on average of one egg a day. One. Slackers.

There you have it. If it's dry, October can often be my favorite month. That's tricky - but this year it has been pretty dry and I've been able to be outside a lot. Mentally, that will take me through winter with a much better outlook. The color of October is something I look forward to every year; I feel lucky when I have it.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy gardening!


  1. A lovely meander through your Fall garden. I think you appreciate the late Fall bloomers the best as they are few and far between. Read recently that Viburnum trilobum has undergone another name change to V. americana var. americana. The ground is already white here so thanks for the tour of the Fall garden.

    1. I think you are right...just like spring when you see that first daffodil and obsess about it.

      Well, regarding the viburnum, I can't seem to keep up! Stay warm!

  2. Wonderful as always. I love all the touches of fall color, especially as there's precious little of that here. I also have an Acer 'Sango-Kaku' but it's just beginning to develop a little color. With luck, the persimmons will follow suit, assuming we get colder and stay that way for awhile. Meanwhile, I'll be looking into both that Helianthus angustifolius and the beautiful Salvia 'Autumn Sapphire'.

    1. Thank you Kris :)

      I realize you don't get much fall color and that's too bad, for it is a joy to help us into the next season. BUT you have year-round great temps, which I miss from my Santa Cruz days. We're about to have the deluge that is November and it's cold.

      The Helianthus is awesome - mine is still blooming (near the end of its cycle) and the Salvia surprised me, a really lovely and delicate plant I recommend for sure.


Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments! I love hearing them, I will approve comments as soon as I can. Yay!

Popular Posts